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2009-05-03

Vista Post-SP2 Black Screen. Is Vista slower?

There are tons of XP vs. Vista posts on web. To be honest, I have a pretty fast PC and never I could care less if Vista is a couple of seconds slower than XP; it's still fast. This post is not looking to make a comparison but it is more about a couple of useful things I discovered when I was looking around post-sp2 upgrade. Here is what happened...

Post-SP2 Black Screen
I've downloaded and installed Vista SP2 on one of my laptops and noticed that there was an extended period of "black" screen during boot time. I did not pay much attention to it but today I noticed the same thing on my desktop post SP2.

Vista Logs
It tickled my curiosity and I started looking around. Soon, I found out that Vista Logs are incredibly detailed and there is abundant information to diagnose such stuff. That is great news because I always hated XP's inability to tell me what was causing slowness during boot. I would sit there and watch for 4-5 mins painfully while my laptop crawls to a start. Of course I tried invaluable Sysinternal tools like Procmon to watch boot process and try to sift thru hundreds of thousands of records which was mostly useless...

So, first I headed to Control Panel to see what was Vista reporting recently:

Control Panel > Performance Information and Tools > Advanced Tools


I have not seen anything in the recent "Performance Issues" section that suggested that I was seeing a degradation of system boot but interestingly enough there was some clue to another issue I was seeing on my Pc recently; it just would not go to Sleep mode...

You will notice that at the bottom of the dialog box; there is a link to the Event Viewer; and that's the beauty of Vista. This basically means that Vista is in fact going thru performance logs and giving you a summary of recent events...

Diagnostics-Performance
To get to Diagnostics-Performance logs, you can click the link above or open up Event Viewer
Start > run > eventvwr.msc then browse to
Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > Diagnostics-Performance > Operational

Under the Operational, you will see tons of events logged. There a couple of Task Categories.
  • Click on "Task Category" and
  • Select "Group Events by This Category"


From category names, it's clear that "Boot Performance Monitoring" is the one that should give us the information we are looking for.

In the screenshot above you will notice that; Vista is in fact telling us about the time it took to boot. There is more, if you click the details tab, there is actually a breakdown of boot time! I think this is a very neat feature b/c I still remember how painful it was for me to use a stopwatch to record each phase of XP boot visually and then try to match them to whatever was recorded by extended Group Policy logs and Event Logs... It's all there; in the event logs now.

When I looked at break-down of boot times, it was not easy to tell what some of them were; so I googled and in fact found an article titled "Microsoft's hidden diagnostic tool unlocks Vista startup secrets". Well, there is not much there other than what I had already found out but it mentioned two parts of boot time:

MainPathBootTime measures the time it takes for the system to load all drivers and services that are critical to user interaction and get to the Windows desktop where the user can begin doing things.

BootPostBootTime includes all the other drivers and processes that aren’t critical to user interaction and can be loaded with low-priority I/O that always gives preference to user-initiated actions that execute using Normal I/O priority.

I tried to find the follow up writing on ZD net but after spending 20mins to no avail; I gave up.
I filtered by Event ID 100-190:
  • On the left pane, right click on "Operational"
  • Click "Filter Current Log"
  • Replace "" with 100-190
And started to look at boot times. Apparently my boot up time was around 80000milliseconds (ie. 80 seconds) but the latest boot time was a whopping 262sec (4.3mins). Unfortunately, there was no smoking gun; and Windows did not report anything unusual in this case.

This may be OK though; because I remembered that I had also installed Office 2007 SP2 and had not rebooted yet; so this might have been the cause of delay. To be sure, I will need to reboot a couple of times and measure them to see if I was still getting 80secs.

During the investigation, I noticed that at times, some apps (McAfee Antivirus, Rawr etc) were causing delays and Windows were reporting such events. By the way, the same log is also used to determine what is blocking a machine from sleeping or causing delays during shutdown.



Conclusion
So, is Vista slower than XP? Maybe but I don't care. With XP, I could never tell what was causing slowness. Now, at least I have better visibility. Overall, I like Vista more.


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